Solar power is one of those environmentally conscious technologies that sounds great from afar, but seems overwhelming up close. 1 Block Off the Grid, or 1BOG, is a company trying to make the switch to solar less scary — and it just moved to Pittsburgh.
1BOG, which was founded in 2008 by Dave Llorens, a former door-to-door solar power salesman, works to group homeowners in key communities together and pair them with a local solar power installer, thereby lowering individual installation costs. Installing solar panels to power The Chronicle office in Shadyside, for example, could cost over $9,000 alone.
In Pittsburgh, 1BOG has amassed about 120 homeowners and aligned them with Astrum Solar Installations, a Maryland-based solar panel installation company.
1BOG has now set up group-buying communities in 18 cities. In choosing Pittsburgh, the company asked questions such as, “What are state and city rebates [for going solar]? What are electricity prices in the area? What are the returns on investing in solar power?” said Vice President of Operations Steve Cooper.
If a city has fairly high electricity prices and offers good tax incentives for unplugging from the power grid and going solar, that city is a good place for 1BOG to set up shop. Pennsylvania, for example, offers eight different tax credits and rebates, including a 30 percent federal tax credit for the net cost of installing solar roof panels.
Prior to partnering with a solar installation company, 1BOG “does a lot of community outreach in synagogues and other gathering places” to put together an interested group of homeowners, Cooper said. “Pittsburgh was great. We got a lot of ground flow. People are really receptive to the concept; you can tell it’s an energized city.”
Cooper admitted that Pittsburgh surprised him.
“We do some in-depth analysis of the town itself,” he said. “When we started talking about Pittsburgh, people said, ‘It’s a steel town.’ But as we dug more and more, we found it has a progressive undercurrent. It’s a really nice mix with 1 Block Off the Grid.”
Though 1BOG is only officially involved in connecting homeowners to solar installers and insuring a financially sound deal, the company’s resources remain accessible to homeowners long after they’ve switched to powering their homes by the sun.
“The goal here is we don’t just put solar panels on homes and walk away,” Cooper said. “We make the whole process even simpler, hand-holding homeowners from beginning to end. We try to continue to support those people so they never feel abandoned during the whole process.”
For more information or to get involved in Pittsburgh, visit 1bog.org.
(Justin Jacobs can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)